Opry at the Ryman: Nashville, Tennessee
The Show That Made Country Music Famous
No trip to Nashville, Tennessee is complete without seeing some live music. I have my parents to thank for my love of classic rock and soul but my grandparents got me started with the country greats like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline. I spent many summer nights on their back porch in Birmingham, Alabama shelling beans, making ice cream, and tuning into the Opry show. A couple of weeks ago I met some friends in Nashville, and took the opportunity to meet the "Mother Church of Country Music" on the opening night of the Opry at The Ryman.
This post is sponsored by the Grand Ole Opry. All opinions are my own.
A Little History
The Grand Ole Opry began as a barn dance program that first aired on November 25, 1925. Over the years the show moved to different locations but continued to bring together incredible country music acts. 90 years later the Grand Ole Opry is still going strong sharing country music with the world.
The Ryman Auditorium was originally built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Since its inception, the tabernacle hosted a series of revivals for the community. At the turn of the century, the Ryman stage was built for touring performances and lectures like Harry Houdini and the Fisk University Singers. In 1943, The Grand Ole Opry made its home at the Ryman and it would forever be known as one of the best music halls in the world.
Artists like Minnie Pearl, Kitty Wells, and Bill Monroe were some of the Opry's first stars later welcoming other Opry greats like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. The Opry said goodbye to the Ryman on Friday, March 15, 1974. To keep in touch with their roots, the Opry took an eight-foot circle of hardwood from the Ryman and placed it at the center of the new Opry House. Each winter the Grand Ole Opry returns to its roots with the Opry at the Ryman, a series of shows at the Ryman Auditorium.
What to Expect
The Ryman Auditorium is well known for its acoustics; there really isn't a bad seat in the house. Music from the stage floods the congregation; so much so that it feels like the band is right in front of you regardless if you're in the pit or in the balcony. Sitting in the pews and swaying to that old-time sound took me back.
Grand Ole Opry shows are also unlike any traditional concert. The lineup spans different styles of country music so there is something for everyone. On opening night this year, we heard classic country from Connie Smith, fast bluegrass from Ricky Scaggs, new pop/country sounds from LOCASH, and bluesy ballads from Emily West. Surprise guest performances from artists like Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton are always a possibility. No matter what, you're going to hear an incredible show.
Photography is allowed so don't forget your camera.
If you're interested in learning more about the history of the Opry or the Ryman Auditorium, I'd highly recommend taking a tour. With both guided and self-guided options you can spend several hours diving into the history of this historic venue and explore the memorabilia of the Opry era. My mom and I took a self-guided tour several years ago and as we perused the costumes and sheet music, she shared stories of she and her siblings watching the Opry intently when it aired on television in the 50s. For the ultimate country music fan, the Opry at the Ryman Post Show Tour is a must. After the show head backstage and get an exclusive look at the hallowed halls and dressing rooms.
Don't forget to check out the funky Hatch Show Print Gallery on the balcony level.
Food & Drink Nearby
I'm always on the hunt for a good beer before or after the show. Luckily there are PLENTY of options in Nashville but these are a few of my favorites close by.
- Cafe Lula - Nashville-centric cuisine with local booze and coffee. The location couldn't be better (literally right next door) and they have Jackalope brews on tap. It is a casual counter service place making it an ideal meeting place for a group before or after a show.
- Acme Feed and Seed - Two floors of Southern food and drink. The downstairs is more casual fare while the upstairs has a lounge vibe.
- Goo Goo Shop - Goo Goo Clusters are a must in Nashville and the Goo Goo Shop has all kinds of goo-goo-fied treats like cheesecake, floats, and sundaes. The shop closes at 7:00 pm so you'll have to get your fix before the show but dessert before dinner on vacation is totally acceptable. Am I right?
I just found out one of my favorite bluegrass artists, Del McCoury, is playing December 12 so I might have to make another road trip.
Opry at the Ryman Calendar
Have you been to the Grand Ole Opry?